From the outside, I look just like anyone else. I wear a smile and laugh in all of the right places. On the inside, I feel as if I’m trapped in a box. I’ve hit a wall and I don’t know which way to turn. For the first time since I joined this world, I wonder if I really belong here. Would anyone notice if I just disappeared? What would happen if I swallowed these handfuls of drugs or ran my car into that oncoming semi truck?
I wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I was just like everyone else. Then, I met her. I thought she was everything I ever wanted in a woman. She was smart and funny. She made me feel loved and accepted. For a while, anyway…
At first I didn’t notice the little digs about me. She worded them as jokes and I laughed along side her even though they stung. I didn’t notice at first how one by one all of my friends were replaced with hers until I no longer had anyone to go spend time with that didn’t involve her. I thought she really needed my help around the house. I thought that she asked me where I was going whenever I left the house because she cared and would worry if I were home late.
As time passed, the digs became more frequent. She still worded them as jokes but now they weren’t just directed towards me, but she told them to my family and to my few remaining friends. Slowly, so slowly she isolated me from my family, until not days or weeks had gone by but years since I had seen them. I no longer went out unless it was with her. She would tell me that I could yet at the same time made it clear that if I did, she would be unhappy with me and she was my wife, I couldn’t intentionally upset her.
Then one day, I made one tiny mistake and she snapped. The woman that I loved had turned into someone that I didn’t even know anymore. Suddenly all of this ugliness came pouring out. She made it clear that everything in our marriage that wasn’t perfect was my fault. I was scared. She was all I had left and now she was threatening to leave me too. In those few days, I would have done anything just so that she’d show me some sign of affection.
Then, it happened. The reprieve. She told me that I was on probation. If I could prove to her that I could be a perfect spouse, she would forgive me and we would be ok. Looking back now, I realize just how ridiculous that sounds, but at the time, I was so thankful that I was being given another chance that I grabbed onto it with both hands. I did whatever she wanted. If she told me to jump, I went and bought a trampoline. I just wanted her love and affection back. We had been married for 9 years at this point and I couldn’t imagine my life without her.
The thing is? It didn’t change anything. Sure, she was affectionate again for a while but then just when I relaxed, the little digs started again. I tried to ignore them. I was sure that they weren’t really digs but true studies on my character as a person. After all, I was the one that screwed up, right? I took every word that she said to heart and I did my best to become the person that she wanted me to be, even when it were things that were against my own nature. It was never enough. I was never good enough.
An entire year went by. When my probation was up and she didn’t mention divorce again, I relaxed a little. I still did my absolute best to keep her happy but I didn’t go to bed praying each night that tomorrow wouldn’t be the day she announced she was leaving me.
Then something else happened..something that opened my eyes to the kind of person I was really married to. What it was doesn’t really matter. What matters is that suddenly I was angry. I hadn’t been allowed to be angry for so long that I almost didn’t know how to handle it.
It took me months to realize that throughout our marriage, nothing had really been my fault. I had done the best any person could have done to keep another happy. In exchange, I had been belittled..subtly at first and then directly..until I believed everything she said about me. I had been isolated from not only my friends, but my family. I had to ask permission to do anything that may not involve her and if it didn’t involve her, she made sure one way or another that I didn’t do it.
It took me years to realize that I’m not the man that she painted me to be. I’m not lazy. I’m not stupid or incompetent. I can wash a dish or sweep a floor as well as any other person on this planet. My desire to have friends isn’t wrong. As humans, we crave affection and have a general need to be around people. It’s taken me even longer to start to heal the scars that were left behind..the embarrassment and shame left behind that I allowed someone to control me so completely have nearly crippled me at times. The fear that maybe she was right about the type of person that I am haunts my every failure.
Please, if any of this seems at all familiar to you, you are not alone on this planet. This happens to people, no matter their gender, every single day. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t put up with it. It’s not your fault and you don’t deserve this. You deserve and can have better. Emotional and psychological abuse isn’t limited to men towards women. Women can be just as abusive. If any of these are happening within your relationship, don’t keep silent..get help and get out:
- Your partner insults, criticizes or calls you names on a regular basis
- Keeps you from your family and friends
- Is jealous, possessive or does not trust you
- Withholds affection if you don’t do what they want you to
- Threatens physical abuse against you, your children, your family or pets
- Continually humiliates you in public
- Makes you ask for permission to, or monitors, who you call or spend time with
- You find yourself walking on eggshells for fear of what ordeal may erupt at home
- You use phrases such as: If I just stay quiet and wait it out, it will be ok.
- You find yourself making excuses for her behavior
- Your partner blames their behavior on you or on something such as a bad day, apologizes yet repeats the behavior
Submitted by: S.K.